If your green card expires while you await citizenship, it can create unwanted complications. However, you should not panic, as it is a problem that can be resolved without disrupting your path to citizenship.
At New Frontier Immigration Law, we can help you through every step of the process. Becoming a U.S. citizen often involves long waiting periods. If your green card expires by mistake while waiting for your naturalization interview and certificate, there are things you can do to fix it. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Phoenix immigration lawyer.
Green Card Validity Period
When United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues your permanent resident card, aka green card, they provide an expiration date that is usually between two and 10 years, depending on your circumstances. This expiration date doesn’t actually mean you lose your permanent residency status on that day.
However, renewing your green card before the expiration date is required so that USCIS has your most recent photo and information on file. It is important to start the renewal process several months in advance of the expiration date to ensure your new card is issued before the old card expires.
If your green card expires and you don’t renew on time, this can cause issues. Even though you retain your permanent resident status, you will likely face difficulties proving that status to employers, landlords, and border officials without a valid green card.
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How to Extend Your Green Card While Waiting for Citizenship
If you have already applied for citizenship but are still waiting for your naturalization interview and your green card expiration date is approaching, there are steps you can take to avoid any unwanted complications.
File Form I-90 to renew or “extend” your green card. You can file this form up to six months before your card expires. On your I-90 form, the additional information section mentions that you have an active citizenship application pending. An experienced immigration lawyer can help ensure that your form is filed correctly and on time.
USCIS will often grant you a two-year extension while you wait for your citizenship interview and approval. However, you must continue to follow up proactively on your naturalization case. Once you receive your citizenship certificate, bring it to USCIS to formally report the end of your permanent resident status. At this point, you will no longer need your green card.
What if Your Green Card Expires by Mistake?
Even with the best intentions, life happens, and sometimes immigration documents expire by mistake. If this happens to you, you should still file Form I-90 to renew your green card, just like those waiting for citizenship. Explain any reasons for the delay in your application. Late fees will likely apply.
If your green card expires, contact USCIS to inform them about the mistake and your pending citizenship case. Ask if you qualify for a “good cause” waiver due to your specific circumstances. Continue to pursue your citizenship application and interview. Once approved, report the end of your permanent residency status to USCIS with your citizenship certificate in hand.
If you are interviewed by border or immigration officials after your green card has expired, remain respectful and explain you have filed to renew your expired green card due to a pending citizenship case. Carry copies of your paperwork with you to help minimize problems.
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Taking Action Quickly Is Essential
In general, you should be fine if your green card expires by mistake while waiting for citizenship. You shouldn’t face any major problems as long as you act promptly to rectify the situation and continue demonstrating “good moral character.”
However, waiting to take action can lead to more serious problems. USCIS wants lawful residents to proactively follow proper renewal procedures, so file your I-90 form as soon as you realize your green card has expired.
With an explanation of your citizenship application and timelines, USCIS will likely grant you a provisional extension while you finish the naturalization process. Then once you are officially a U.S. citizen, you can terminate your permanent resident status by providing your citizenship certificate.
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Renew Early to Avoid Problems
The best way to avoid issues is by filing your green card renewal application as soon as you are able, even if your citizenship application is already in process. Even if you are far along in the citizenship process, there is always the potential that your application could hit a snag and take far longer to get a USCIS decision than you expect.
While you are likely hoping to avoid having to file an additional green card application, it is going to be easier, in the long run, to get it submitted on time than to find yourself in limbo between the expiration of your permanent residency and the approval of your citizenship application.
Reach Out to an Experienced Immigration Lawyer Today
When dealing with any immigration process, an experienced immigration attorney can help ensure your paperwork gets filed correctly and on time. At New Frontier Immigration Law, we have helped countless clients file their forms with USCIS and deal with any immigration problems that may arise.
Contact us today by phone or through our website to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team.